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Shooting Star

(by Samantha Cull)

It’s funny, isn’t it, how something as simple as sitting on an airplane can change your life forever.

On a flight home to Essex, England, after a wonderful vacation in Florida, I sat watching the stars out the window. Suddenly a bright light lit up the sky—a shooting star. It was so close, rushing across the sky, and I quickly made a wish before it faded away. I wished that the baby I was carrying would be a healthy girl, and the star seemed to take enough time before it faded so I could make that wish.

We had discovered I was in early pregnancy just before we were due to fly. I love my four sons so much, but that hope to have a little girl sometimes broke my heart. I’d miscarried many years ago and always believed that the baby was a girl. I wanted a daughter to share makeup, hairstyles, dancing, singing, cooking, and more—things that generally got a response from my sons like “Eeeuuuwww” or “That’s for girls.”

Once home, we decided to go for an early scan (the pregnancy was the result of failed birth control, and I was worried). As we walked into the medical office, we heard several announcements of “It’s a girl, I’m so happy” from other mothers who’d just had their scans. I was happy for them but….

As the sonographer moved the wand over my stomach, we were chatting about the fact that I had four boys, when she went very quiet. I asked, “Is everything alright?” I tried not to panic as she called her assistant over, said a few words, and they both nodded. My eyes filled with tears as I waited for bad news. “Nothing’s wrong,” said the sonographer, "but do you know what you’re having?” I stammered a panicky “No.”

“It’s a hamburger!” she said with delight. I was horrified. All I could say was, “What?”

“It’s a girl,” she said beaming, “a hamburger, not a hot dog.”

My now-husband and I were raising my three sons from a previous relationship and the son we had together, and were planning our wedding when we found out that I was pregnant, so we continued with our plans and got married in April, 2018, in the Essex countryside. Our hidden bridesmaid was born ten days later, screaming like a banshee. Now at age three, Hallie is everything I could have hoped for. She’s sassy, sweet, smart, independent, and strong-willed, just like me. She likes to do everything she can by herself—growing things in the garden (pumpkins are her favorite), putting the bubbles she likes into the bath, dressing herself and brushing her own hair and teeth. (I have to re-do her hair and teeth, of course.)

And best of all, she loves to cook with me. She actually likes to prepare a lot of food herself (supervised), and I’m not going to argue with her. (I wouldn’t have argued with my three-year-old self either.) She likes to wash vegetables in the colander, or peel potatoes for potato salad. She has her own little oven gloves and pretends to put things in her pretend oven. I’ve taught her all the recipes I know, like cottage pie. Some of my family are from Trinidad, and some Irish, so I grew up on a mix of traditional foods.

Sadly, Hallie has an issue with severe reflux and a narrow throat, which has meant chronic problems with swallowing and choking. She couldn’t even eat the smallest lump of food until she was two, but ultimately it didn’t deter her from a love of food, and every meal we share together is doubly precious. She can eat almost normally now. We have to watch her carefully every time she eats or drinks, but it’s so much less worrying than it used to be.

I am so lucky to have each and every one of my children, but I will always be especially grateful to that shooting star.


Samantha Cull is an actress based in Essex, England. She can be found on Instagram and IMDb.

Cottage Pie

2 1/4 lb. ground beef (5% fat)

1 onion, halved and sliced

3/4 lb. button mushrooms

1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced

6 oz. frozen peas

1 Knorr Beef Stock Pot

1 beef stock cube

3 generous sprinkles Bisto beef gravy granules

crushed black pepper, to taste

6 medium peeled white potatoes

grated cheddar cheese, to taste

optional: sliced tomatoes

In a slow cooker, place ground beef, onion, mushrooms, carrots, peas, Beef Stock Pot, beef stock cube, Bistro beef gravy granules, and black pepper. Cook according to slow cooker instructions.

When ready to serve, drain off any fat, and place mixture in an ovenproof dish.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Boil and mash potatoes, and spread on top of mixture.

Sprinkle with cheese.

Add sliced tomatoes if using.

Bake until pie is heated and cheese has browned.

Cool for 5 minutes before cutting into squares.


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